The Mindfulness revolution: bringing Mindfulness into the mainstream of corporate lives
Does it take a global pandemic for Mindfulness to become mainstream?
As a long time Mindfulness practitioner, when the UK entered lockdown along with much of the rest of the world in March 2020, I asked myself what could I contribute to bring a sense of balance to my colleagues? After all, Mindfulness has been my saving grace, supporting me with my own mental health challenges, but this was way bigger, this affected us all. So, what could I do?
I’m fortunate to work for a large Financial Services organisation, where Wellbeing is consistently high on the agenda, but it felt like the emphasis from a corporate perspective needed to be, at least in those early stages, supporting colleagues with the culture shock of the sudden shift from working in an office, surrounded by colleagues where you could collaborate, socialise and be in the company of others to being sat at home, in front of your laptop, perhaps at a kitchen table or even perched at the end of a bed. While initially, this may have felt like a short-term inconvenience from our normal routines, as we now know all too well, 15 months later we are yet to return to “normal” – if indeed we ever will.
The challenge was not wanting to “force” Mindfulness onto others. While it’s been immensely beneficial for me, I recognise that it’s not a one size fits all – others may not be interested, perhaps owing to misconceptions or maybe it simply isn’t aligned to their chosen path in life. So with this in mind, I determined that a short daily session talking about what was happening at the time along with a short Mindfulness practice, might be a helpful bridge to offer that level of support. And so, 1 week into lockdown, Midday Mindfulness was launched and, supported by Mindfulness Champions, we delivered a 15-minute mindfulness session every workday: a bit like Joe Wicks but with less physical exertion 😊
Much like Joe, as we approached the end of June 2020, we ended the series having attracted in the region of 80 colleagues joining the calls. But as we entered further incarnations of lockdown, we took the decision to reinstate the series on a weekly basis – after all, as we had now adapted to our “new normal” would the appetite remain? Indeed it did, maybe due in no small part to the boldness of our senior leaders to embrace change and offer a diverse health and wellbeing portfolio to colleagues, with a real emphasis around self-care. Our Mindfulness Partner sponsor at EY, Michael Von der Geest, reflected on the impact of the pandemic by observing a real desire amongst colleagues to remain connected with each other and, in doing so, we have become more gentle and forgiving of each other and of our personal circumstances and needs.
Fast forward to June 2021 and, as we approach the end of another lockdown, some 15 months after the world changed for us all, I can reflect on this statement with an open heart – each and every session delivered has spoken of my truth in an age of confusion and uncertainty, the rationale that, if I’m feeling it, others must be too. Our sessions have addressed issues such as fear of going to the supermarket in the company of strangers, moments of judgement, both of ourselves and of others, loneliness and anxiety, as well as embracing those small moments where we can find joy in our day, practice gratitude and find hope in a sometimes seemingly hopeless situation. And this must have resonated as today, we have 800 colleagues voluntarily subscribed to join the (now) Midweek Mindfulness sessions
Michael has spoken of his personal hope of this more human attitude to our daily working lives being a lasting legacy of this time. And this speaks to me – perhaps, in our own small way, I and the Mindfulness Champions who support our Network, have from small beginnings created a Mindfulness revolution that so many of our people have connected with. And this too is our legacy, quietly bringing Mindfulness into the mainstream of corporate lives.
Amanda Hart, Executive Assistant at EY and UKI Mindfulness Lead
Amanda Hart Biography: Amanda has been an Executive Assistant with EY for 6 years, supporting a diverse portfolio of Directors and Partners. She joined the EY Mindfulness Network in 2016, initially in the Administration team, and found that Mindfulness and Meditation significantly improved her challenges with depression and anxiety. She chose to deepen her knowledge by undertaking teacher training and gained her TTR1 accreditation with Bangor University in 2018
Amanda now teaches an adapted version of the 8-week MBSR course in-house and continues to develop